Frank LaDon Thompson
August 19, 1969 – October 14, 2015
Yesterday afternoon I was sitting at home watching a baseball game when I found out that my friend Frank’s journey here on earth had come to an end. He died due to complications related to his heart and kidney transplant surgery.
The sensation of numbness washed over me like a wave. And then another came. And then another.
It is always surreal to hear the news of a death. There is the finality of it all. Knowing that the next time you think about them, all you will have are the cherished memories you made with them. Knowing that you will not be able to call or text or message them. Knowing in a way that, quite literally, takes your breath away. Where you voice catches in your throat and you experience that waves of sadness wash over you again.
It’s always worse at the beginning. The power and weight of the waves seem to not let up. You struggle to find your bearings or even catch you breath. You feel like you are drowning, even wondering if that would be better than this. Anything would be better, or so it feels at the moment.
I met Frank and Julie while I was serving as the youth pastor of the First United Methodist Church is Cordele, GA. I did not know them all that well. Cordele First was Julie’s family’s home church. I had known her youngest sister from college, something I found out later. And one day while at the church Julie asked me if I would be interested in officiating their wedding. Honestly, I cannot remember why they asked me to do their wedding. We had crossed paths at the church during their visits but, I don’t remember doing or saying anything that impressive or memorable. Nonetheless, they asked and I accepted.
We did their marriage counseling over Skype and I knew that these two were good people. The kind of people who make you feel accepted and cared for. The kind of people who know how to love. They loved deeply, sincerely. With every fiber of their being they gave of themselves to each other and to those who accepted what they offered.
I knew they were going to make it as a couple and a family because of the way they laughed, both individually and together. I have always been an observer of laughter. What we laugh at tells a lot about us. But, how we laugh says even more. And Frank and Julie knew how to laugh. Those laughs, both distinct and unique. Both memorable. Both true expressions of the souls that saw the joy of life and love.
When I found out about Frank’s heart problems I began to pray. Many of us who loved them did. We saw the changes. We knew it was serious. So we prayed. We prayed because that is what we are supposed to do. And through it all Frank remained positive. Burdened by the reality of his situation, and yet resolute to love and lead his family through it. This he did like the man I remember. He promised to be there for Julie through it all. I was there when he made that promise. But Julie made a promise too. A promise she made to which she has remained true.
It may be something bred into the Adams women because they are strong. In Julie that strength is more like a fire. It looks calm and tame. But look long enough and you will see it. In meekness she fought the fight for life with her husband. She fought with him and for him until the end. There was no surrender, no backing down, no letting go. Not until it was time.
This is the high cost of love. To give of yourself until there is nothing left. To give to those who have captured your heart and whose lives have become indistinguishably intertwined with your own. When you love like this there is a price to be paid. And we pay it gladly. We recognize the risk and accept it because we would rather feel the pain on the other side of our present joy, than to have never felt the love at all.
The depth of our mourning is a measure of the quality of our love. Frank is being mourned by his wife, children, family, and friends today (and for days to come). We mourn for him because he gave us a part of himself and, now that he is gone from this world, we do not want to lose what he gifted to us.
I will continue to pray for Julie and the girls. I will pray for all of us who knew him. And, in the midst of the sorrow, I will find a way rejoice because Frank was a man of faith. He loved others with the love he himself had come to know. So, while I mourn, I want to also rejoice and remember my friend, not just because he died, but because of the way he lived his life.
This post has been updated.